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Novel retells gold history in Lumpkin County

POSTED: October 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Anne Dismukes Amerson long ago made a name for herself as an expert on North Georgia history and from her "I Remember Dahlonega" series of books, along with other books on the area's past.

She has outdone herself this time, however, with a historical novel, "Dahlonega's Gold."

It follows the fictional life of Keziah Hamilton, who eloped at age 15 in the 1830s. Early in their marriage, she and husband Fate Cochran, like many others, left South Carolina to join the gold rush in North Georgia seeking a better life, if not a fortune.

The trip alone was arduous and fraught with danger, Keziah being pregnant by now, but it was just the beginning of a struggle for the young couple desperately trying to scratch out a living among the hardened prospectors who illegally panned for gold in streams in what still remained Indian territory.

Keziah's husband eventually joined others who believed their pot of gold lay in California, where still another rush for fortunes was on, but she remained in Lumpkin County.

What is so good about Anne's book is that she takes fictional characters and blends them in with real-life figures whose names are familiar to anybody with any inkling of North Georgia history.

For instance, Templeton Reid, who operated a private mint in Gainesville for a time, took Fate's first bit of gold and shaped it into a wedding band that he had promised his wife at the time of their marriage.

Gainesville plays a role in the couple's story. Having little luck in the gold fields, they come to the city to find work. When they get on their feet again, Fate returns to Lumpkin County hoping for better days.

Grandma Agnes Paschal, a real-life heroine in Lumpkin County's history, also has a major role in the book. She serves as an adviser and inspiration for Keziah. Grandma Paschal and her husband came to Auraria to operate a hotel. She fought against alcoholic beverages in a somewhat rowdy community that overflowed with them. But she gained respect of miners and other residents, establishing the first church and nursing the sick.

"Dahlonega's Gold" also brings in the tragedy of the Cherokees, the Indians who had lived in North Georgia forever, but were chased from their homes by the federal government. The infamous "Trail of Tears," forcing the Indians to the distant Oklahoma Territory, figures in Anne's story of Keziah and her husband.

The courthouse that stands in the center of the Dahlonega square today and serves as the state's Gold Museum is a part of the plot, as well as the U.S. Mint that was built during the gold rush. Col. W.P. Price, for whom the subsequent building is named, helped acquire it for North Georgia Agricultural College, which was the predecessor of today's North Georgia College and State University. Its gold-leafed steeple is one of the most prominent landmarks in the community.

One of the more interesting parts of the book is Lumpkin County's role in the Civil War. Northeast Georgia wasn't as much a player in the war as other sections of the state. But many of its men went off to war, some few even fighting for the Union as opposition to secession was strong in some quarters.

Al Adams of Gainesville, who operates Gold Rush Gallery in Dahlonega, provided Anne some Civil War soldiers' letters that shed light on how the area fared during and immediately after the war. Federal soldiers occupied Dahlonega three separate times up until 1869. They were primarily watching over the former mint.

The idea for the book has been rattling around in Anne's head for years, the main characters practically haunting her to finally put it together. The result is an interesting read especially to those familiar with local history, but for anybody who enjoys an engrossing story with all the essential elements woven around actual happenings.

"Dahlonega's Gold" is available at several places in Lumpkin County, including the welcome center and the Gold Museum. The book is expected to be sold in Gainesville shortly.

Anne Amerson meanwhile is on the talk circuit, speaking about her book and the area's history to historical societies and other organizations.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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